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From Under A Rock: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

August 27, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
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From Under A Rock: Forgetting Sarah Marshall  


The comedy genre has been muddied over the past 15 years with masturbatory improv sessions that it’s hard to find films that stick to their script and deliver a straightforward great comedy. This week’s pick is one of those.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Steel. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Released: March 10th, 2008
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Written by: Jason Segel
Jason Segel as Peter Bretter
Mila Kunis as Rachel Jansen
Kristen Bell as Sarah Marshall
Russell Brand as Aldous Snow

Michael Ornelas: Life can be very stressful, so I wanted to pick this week’s film to escape a little bit from what has been a very busy month or so. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is light and fun, and I needed that.

Aaron Hubbard: This was an interesting one for me. I watched the unrated version, figuring it was probably the most accurate way to absorb it. Sexy rom coms aren’t exactly my cup of tea but I found myself liking this most of the time.
Flawed But Lovable
Michael: At the forefront of this movie is the heart that Jason Segel gives to the Peter Bretter character. Peter obviously suffers from depression — partially from toxicity in his relationship, and partially from natural causes, but he’s trying to stay positive. This is one of the most relatable positions for any human to be in, so immediately I latched on to him. I saw myself in him, and it made it all the more heartbreaking to watch him mess up (like when he started hooking up with his ex while he had already been seeing Rachel).

Aaron: I think Jason is one of the best everymen working in Hollywood. He can play a pathetic character in a way that isn’t over-the-top annoying or too cool to get the point across. Peter is in a bad spot that’s largely of his own making, but I wanted to see him work to overcome those feelings. It felt very real in that aspect and it makes the whole film work.

Michael: The same can actually be said for almost all of the characters in this movie. Obviously Jason Segel is the headliner and the best at it, but no character is solely in the right or the wrong. Rachel is a mess in her own ways too, but is so charming that she’s easy to like. Even Aldous has a few redeeming moments, even if his loose approach to fidelity makes him look like an asshole in any scenes regarding the actual inner workings of his relationship with Sarah.
Bad Relationship, Not Bad People
Aaron: What I found refreshing about this was that while the script had no problem in showing how its characters were flawed people, it didn’t try to demonize anyone. Peter and Sarah are both deeply flawed people who do a lot to hurt each other. But Sarah isn’t the antagonist, and neither is Peter. Their comfortable but incompatible relationship is. I like that they didn’t end up together. It seemed that could never work out. And that’s a valuable lesson that even adults don’t always learn.

Michael: This is something I didn’t pick up on as much in 2008 when I first saw the film (because I was only 20 years old and had a different worldview), but I fully agree. Sarah Marshall wasn’t this evil, vindictive ex-girlfriend that we so often seen in the world of relationship-centric comedies. She was very human, and real, and I felt bad that she got hurt in the end. It softened the blow that she cheated to end up in that relationship in the first place, but Kristen Bell is such a talent that I still felt for her. They showed very few flashbacks in the film, but pretty much all of them perfectly highlighted the fact that these two simply don’t fit.

Aaron: I think my favorite scene is the one where they sit down and Sarah rails on him for not taking care of himself. It’s on the nose in the way only the people that matter to us can really get across. Peter seemed to grow a lot from that point, realizing that his unhappiness had more to do with his own complacency, dependence, and lack of motivation than with Sarah leaving him. It was the turning point for him and really sums up the shades of gray this film excels at.
Genuinely Funny
Michael: The cast of side characters in this movie did so much for me in filling out the “comedy” half of “romantic comedy.” I adore Paul Rudd (because I’m human, and all humans adore Paul Rudd), and his character was a lot of fun (“Do less” was hilarious). Jack McBrayer and Maria Thayer’s inability to have good sex because of McBrayer’s mental barriers was a fun side plot as well. It also gave Russell Brand’s character an outlet to actually be the hero despite being a scumbag in a lot of ways. It just adds to the complexity of Aaron’s point about bad relationships being the focus of the film instead of bad people while also creating big laughs along the way.

Aaron: Paul Rudd was a very welcome addition to this for me. He’s very charming and had a great character to play. Russell Brand is not someone I am a fan of, but at least his character was designed for me to hate him more often than not. Bill Hader and Mila Kunis was really fun in their roles as well. It’s a pretty strong cast, and that can turn a bad movie into passable or a decent movie into a good one.

Michael: I’d call this a great comedy, at least of the modern age. It’s not in the “all-time great” category, but for my money, it’s excellent.

Aaron: This was a pleasant surprise in a genre I don’t love. And I didn’t love this film, but I liked it and I think it offers laughs and life lessons in equal measure. Not a bad accomplishment.


Michael: I like the themes of growth, the portrayal of an unhealthy relationship, and the authentic yet comedic performances of pretty much everyone involved. If Segel writes more movies, I’ll be just as enthusiastic to check those out.


Aaron: I really enjoyed it. These trips outside my usual wheelhouse are enlightening.

Michael: And you got to see Jason Segel’s penis. Twice!

What’s your favorite modern comedy?

Next week:

Aaron: So I don’t usually do picks this recent, but I’ve been hounding Michael to see this since March and I figured this’ll get the job done.
Michael: Yeah yeah, I just haven’t had the time. I’m excited though as it got almost universal praise upon its release.

Aaron: This has been neck and neck with Get Out as my pick for best of 2017. I’ll be shocked if either fall out of my top five.

What is your favorite recent comic book movie?

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The simplest way to recommend Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that it is a dramedy that hits both marks. There's a ton of great comedians playing off of each other, but there's heart driving the proceedings. You may think you know how this will play out, but you are probably wrong. Smart, funny, sexy and occasionally powerful in its own small way, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is worth the watch.